The Fetchin’ Ketch is a ketch type sailboat. One with two masts, the one in the back smaller and called the “mizzen”. I have been told several time by people whose opinions on the matter I trusted that when you are sailing upwind the mizzen sail is no help, and might even slow you down. I experimented a bit to test this theory, but never really carefully, and just accepted it as an axiom. I really only worried about the mizzen when sailing off the wind when it was a great tool.
As the wind dropped at the end of yesterday below about 14 knots it became a real struggle to get the boat steering herself reliably. What had been simple at 20 knots became almost impossible at 12. I fiddled with the trim of the job and mainsail, back and forth, every way I could, with only limited success.
Finally, running out of options, I raised the mizzen, and sheeted it home. Magic! It was like somebody put rails in the water for the boat to ride on. Perfectly straight over wide wind strengths, and at wide range of wind angles. My advisors were right about one thing, we did not go any faster, but what a difference in control. It was an experiment that would have been hard to do in San Francisco Bay. Finding a long enough run of water with lighter, unchanging winds would not be possible, but out here on the open water we had the perfect controlled experiment. I love sailing: there is always something new to learn or figure out.
The wind hasn’t been as cooperative today. We even had to resort to using the engine for a few hours this morning (Please, don’t tell anyone!). Last night was long and tedious with many patches of time where it was just too light to keep the boat moving in a useful direction. It didn’t help that all day today was gray and dreary but we are now mostly caught up on sleep, and we have about 12 knots of wind we are enjoying forward progress without the hard work of beating into the bigger waves. Looks like 4 or 5 days to the coast.